I’ve just finished reading The Symbol, the spectacular new book by Dappen, Losin, and Pérez-Mellado on the Ibiza wall Lizard, Podarcis pityusensis. We’ve already discussed in these pages the exploits of the first two authors, Ph.D.’s-turned-filmmakers who have already produced some exceptional science documentaries, most with a lizard focus. And we helped advertise their ultimately successful effort to crowd-source funding for their trip to the Pityusic Archipelago to produce the book. As a result, we saw the spectacular photos and videos they posted along the way, as the project was in progress. For all of these reasons, we had high expectations for the ensuing volume.
And now The Symbol has arrived, and our expectations have been vastly exceeded. In a word, the book is fabulous, or should we say “fabuloso, fabelhaft, favoloso” because the book is simultaneously written in English, Spanish, German and Italian? At first pass, what grabs attention are the photographs, which are amazing. Of course, with a resplendent species like Podarcis pityusensis to work with, the Day’s Edge team had good material with which to work, but they’ve made the most of it. The photos are lustrous, exquisite, sharp and beautifully framed.
But what was so unexpected is the fascinating evolutionary pageant put on by these lizards. We had no idea that they were so extraordinarily diverse, exhibiting dramatically different colors manifest over small geographic distances.
Check out the geographic distribution of the different color forms, 23 of which are recognized as distinct subspecies. Truly extraordinary.
The authors comprehensively review the natural history and evolutionary diversity of these lizards, explaining in a way that will be captivating to a general audience. Ibiza is a world-renowned tourist destination, and the Ibizans love their local lizards, so this book will no doubt be of great value to locals and tourists alike, and doubtless will educate a wide audience.
Yet, the book also holds value to the seasoned herpetologist. The discussion of the biology of this species is thorough and first-rate, and the photos capture in unusually vivid detail many important aspects of their ecology and behavior.
Anole biologists, the challenge has been thrown down. Dappen and colleagues have shown what a fabulous book looks like. Our lizards are equally enticing and photogenic–let’s see a book on a Caribbean anole!